The Verdict

‘You’re scared.’ His face zoomed in on me, with a leering grin, the devil inhabited his eyes.
We were sitting between coffee cups and he hardly knew me.

‘You were scared every step of the way. At school, at university and now. In everything you
do. You’re not good with people,’ he said.

I was appalled. My coffee felt like throwing itself over his well-kempt head. How could he
say such things?

This couldn’t be the man I’d encountered at the Wednesday poetry circle! The respect he
commanded there was overwhelming.

‘The coffee is vile,’ I said.

His dog-tooth jacket stared at me meekly. No breakfast or lunch stains. The dog teeth were
bared but harmless. Awesome … and then he banged his respectable fist on the juddery table. I looked up, startled. What was he doing?

‘Send it back or are you too scared!’ he jeered. His face took on the appearance of a rabbit’s his cheeks expanding like two balloons. ‘Bricking it, are you?’

He was right. I didn’t have the gumption to complain. Nor did I think the coffee deserved to be rejected. There was nothing vile about the coffee.

I felt twitchy. He’d made an assumption about me and that was galling. Even if he was just
sitting on a pretend river bank, fishing for a way into my psyche, it wasn’t the approach to
take. I fumbled in my handbag for a compartment in which to place his impertinence, take it back home and brood on it for the next decade. But there’s a need to lighten up in situations like this, I told myself. I could view his behaviour as pure wicked mischief and retaliate creatively. So I stood up without ceremony and burst into song.

Linda Marshall

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